Richmond city council wants the new federal minister of immigration to tackle the problem of birth tourism.
A motion by Coun. Carol Day to write to Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, urging him to end birthright citizenship for non-Canadians was supported by almost all of council at Monday’s committee meeting.
In the meantime, city staff are fining birth tourism operators on any illegal activity they may be running – but because there is no business license for birth tourism, they can’t be shut down for advertising birth tourism services, explained Cecelia Achiam, general manager of community safety.
“We do not regulate something that we could not approve, so birth tourism is not something that we could regulate at this point,” Achiam said.
This was challenged by the mayor, Malcolm Brodie, however, at the meeting, and he asked staff to find out whether it is possible to shut them down based on the fact they are an illegal business.
“If they’re doing something that's unlicensed and not allowed, you’re telling me you can’t do anything about it – surely it’s operating a business without a license,” Brodie said.
Currently, staff will fine any activity advertised by birth tourism services if they don’t have a license, explained Achiam, for example, if they advertise tutoring services, the city can fine them if they don’t have a business license for tutoring – or if they advertise food services and airport pickup/dropoff services without the correct licenses.
The motion passed by council was to write to the new minister to ask for “immediate permanent changes” to end automatic citizenship for babies born in Canada to non-resident, non-Canadian parents.
Greene pointed out that staffing at Richmond Hospital is based on census data, but this would not take into account the quarter of the total number of births that are to non-residents.
“We’re definitely seeing service impacts – I’ve personally been impacted,” Greene said.
Of the countries that have birthright citizenship, North America is a desirable destination, she said, but this is something the “ultra-rich” only can do.
“It feels really unfair and it doesn’t feel right to shop for your citizenship,” Greene said.
Greene also criticized MLA Jas Johal for praising the U.S. government move to ban pregnant women from getting tourist visas, something Greene called “policing women” by profiling them if they’re pregnant when applying for a tourist visa.
The U.S. State Department put in rules more than a week ago that banned women who were pregnant fromgetting tourist visas to the U.S.
Greene called this a “horrifying violation of human rights.”
She said she wants the letter to reflect that Richmond wants to end a practise where “people essentially buy their citizenship so that we’re never ever in a situation where we’re policing women’s bodies.”
Greene also called for an amendment that talked about changes not affecting vulnerable and stateless people but this didn’t pass.
Coun. Bill McNulty said the accommodation rules need to be revisited, because birth tourist stays don't fall under short-term rentals, rather the provincially regulated long-term rentals.
“I think there are many loopholes to be closed and I think the city can close some of them within our community,” he said.
This was reiterated by Coun. Harold Steves who suggested long-term rentals for birth tourism are actually turning homes into hotels.
McNulty also suggested sending the letter to all MPs in Canada since it’s a federal issue.
“If you want something to be done at the federal level … I think we have to let everybody know,” he said.
Greene was the only councillor who voted against the motion.
Mendicino did not return repeated requests from the Richmond News for an interview.
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